My Affair with Ladakh - "Journey To Turtuk"

Photo of My Affair with Ladakh - "Journey To Turtuk" by Namrata Sawant

Day 2!! After the tiring journey and a small exploration of Hunderman village the previous evening, we woke up to the view of picturesque mountains & beautiful morning hues, from our hotel at Kargil... All set to hit the road again for Leh!

En-route Leh, few kilometers ahead of Kargil, colourful prayer flags started showing up all around. ...across small roads & on the rooftops of beautifully built wooden houses. That was the sign we had reached Lamayuru. Almost every house exterior we saw was decorated with flower plants, adding to the beauty. For me, every experience there, was the first-time experience & it left me awestruck. Lamayuru Gompa was on top of my 'Places to visit' list, but as we were travelling in a shared transport, we had to give it a miss. 😔 Nevertheless, I am sure that it was just the first trip to Leh Ladakh and there will be many more to come in future. So, I saved my visit to Lamayuru Gompa for the next time.😊

Photo of My Affair with Ladakh - "Journey To Turtuk" 1/5 by Namrata Sawant

We reached Leh in the evening and we were set up to leave for Turtuk next day morning. Leh being the high altitude and low oxygen area, anyone arriving here needs to give themselves some time to acclimatize before kicking off the tour. My Leh experience began with a throbbing headache. We stayed at Rovers' Den Hostel and teamed up with 4 more travelers from the hostel for all our next adventures in Leh. All 6 of us were under observation that evening for the oxygen levels in body before our journey to Turtuk.

Photo of My Affair with Ladakh - "Journey To Turtuk" 2/5 by Namrata Sawant

Our plan was to travel via Khardung-la and Nubra valley to Turtuk & take the same rout back to Leh the next day.. by a car.. And this time it was "ours only" ride..!! 😉 We started our journey in the morning & needless to say, it was A-mazing. Whatever your destination may be in Leh, the journeys and the nature you travel along is breathtaking.

When we reached Khardung-la, the place was already crowded. All the tourists passing by the point were lined up in front of the famous Khardung-la board for the photos, as souvenir of their visit to one of the highest passes in the world. We somehow managed to find our way and clicked few pictures. We were instructed by all at the hostel not to stay out of the car for too long since some of us were still not acclimatized and were on medication & the Oxygen level at Khardung-la is much lesser than it is at Leh due to the altitude. We experienced it during our return journey the next day. About that...Later.. !!! 😊

After crossing Khardung-la, towards Turkuk the landscape kept changing dramatically. There were lush green meadow-like villages in between otherwise barren land. It seemed like a painting. Somewhere the road was curvy and somewhere it was stretched straight till as far as we could see. And..! Suddenly.. there was a dessert in Himalayas. That was Sand dunes of Hunder.

The beauty of the place was just magical!! We were gazing at the snow capped mountains standing in the desserts, in the shadows of the giant mountains alongside the road. We couldn't get enough of it.

Photo of My Affair with Ladakh - "Journey To Turtuk" 3/5 by Namrata Sawant
Diskit Monastery

A lot of our journey was along the Shyok river, the tributary of Indus. The journey indeed was beautiful. The river stream was narrow at some places and at some places it was widespread. Incredible sight!!

Photo of My Affair with Ladakh - "Journey To Turtuk" 4/5 by Namrata Sawant

When we reached Turtuk, it was getting dark. There was no electricity in the village. We got to know that the diesel generated electricity will be available only for 2 hours later that evening. That's the daily electric supply received in the village. There was no mobile network or internet either. Only satellite phones worked there. It was completely remote concept for us to know that people live without mobile phones, WhatsApp, internet which have become our basic needs now a days. I was curious to know what they do during rains or winters if the roads are blocked & the connectivity with other villages is lost. How do people survive without food supply. I was surprised by the response. People in these villages spend rest of the days of the year preparing for the winters. They grow their own food. And that is how the routine life looks like in Turtuk. No one can realize looking at the villagers how tough their lives are, because they are all smiling, happy, loving and welcoming despite so many challenges and lack of, what we call,..basic amenities.

Later that evening, we were looking for something to do. Our host Salim suggested we go for star gazing at night (one of his fortes). We all were up for the thrill. That was a little stroll in the village, star lit sky, bit of discussion on Milky Way, my 'not so successful' attempt at night sky photography and bit of storytelling by Salim. We heard stories from the 1999 wars. All the villages situated on the borders were evacuated during the war. The broken pieces of ammunitions are still found on the hills there. In the morning while taking stroll around the beautiful Turtuk, we found few places where there were very old marks of the target practices. After more than 20 years, Turtuk still bears the scars from the war.

Photo of My Affair with Ladakh - "Journey To Turtuk" 5/5 by Namrata Sawant

While travelling back to Leh, we we had to cross Khardung-la before 4 pm. That was because the road would be blocked for traffic as the construction work was to commence after that. We couldn't make it on time and as a result we were stuck few meters away from the Khardung-la point towards Leh. Earlier in the afternoon, as we rushed to be able to meet the timelines, we couldn't stock on the back up food or water. So, we ended up getting stuck with almost no water or food and we had no idea how long will it take to clear the road.

None of the cars in the queue was moving a bit. After almost Two and half hours of being stagnant, not being able to go out of the car due to lack of oxygen, the cold setting up and the lack of food, we kind of started to panic. Especially when it started getting dark. Me and another girl in the group decided to go back to the top and buy something from the Army canteen there. We asked our driver to check if someone would give us a lift. The driver of the goods truck that was doing rounds to help the road work was very kind to us. We got on the truck. Standing in the open roof carrier, chilled wind brushing through our faces and the struggle to balance on the bumpy road.. it was crazy... Then!! Once we reached the top, to our dismay, the canteen was shut for the day.

We went to the army cabin there to check if anything could be arranged. The Army men were helping the people who were stuck with water or any emergency help needed. They offered us warm water. When they learnt about our situation, they immediately sent someone to call the canteen guy and asked him to open the canteen for a while. We were so grateful to the Heroes. They are the saviors!!! We bought some biscuits and water and ran right back to the truck. Just 10-15 minutes of whole adventure and we ran out of breath. Our car never moved an inch for almost 3 more hours after that. And then the traffic was clear. Obviously, after such eventful day all of us we're annoyed and exhausted. But, situations like these make great memories!!! 😊

"It is not the destination where you end up but the mishaps and memories you create along the way!" - Penelope Riley